Told you so

Now that Bush and Blair are racing each other to the bottom of the polls, I remembered one of the most unpopular things I ever wrote, a “Worm’s Eye column”:,,1216006,00.html nearly two years old today. I stole one of the ideas from Matthew Parris: essentially the argument was that, since Bush and his policies were doomed, it was best that he win the election so that he and his gang could be blamed. If he lost, the catastrophe would have overwhelmed Iraq anyway, but it would have been blamed on the “liberals”. I might feel differently if I were American, and I would certainly do so if I lived in New Orleans. I got a great deal of angry and heartfelt mail from American voters as a result of this. But, still, I can claim that my slogan was prescient:

bq.. it is time for a new banner to march beneath, and this year mine will be something like “Anti-imperialists for Bush in 2004”. This will be a very small protest march, but let me try to recruit you to it anyway. The essential argument is very simple. It has to do with the intelligence of our opponents, the warmongering intellectuals. These people are not fools; in fact many of them are cleverer than I am. Some may even be cleverer, better-informed, and more practised at the exercise of power than the average Guardian reader. Yet it has taken this long for them to begin to admit that things are hopeless, and it will take another six months at least before the process is complete. It could take years.

Remember that the argument is no longer about the morality of the war, or its desirability. It is simply about whether defeat is inevitable; and it is hardly surprising that people who have invested so much prestige, and so many hopes, in the war, should resist the conclusion that it is already lost, and that the only question is when we accept defeat. They’ll be especially reluctant because it will be a real defeat; at the end of it, Britain, America, and indeed the whole world will be less secure than we were before the war started. We won’t be any richer, either.

If America is forced out of Iraq in a state of bitter and angry denial, looking, like Germany after 1918, for someone to blame, it will be a very unpleasant and dangerous neighbour for the rest of us; already one hears on the internet the argument that if only Fallujah were turned into a giant ash tray there would be no more trouble from the Iraqis. It’s quite possible that something like that will be tried, too, before defeat can be accepted.

The problem here is one of timing. Those at the front of events can clearly see nemesis ahead; but the mass of voters behind them is still filled with the original hubris of the enterprise. This will still be true in November, when America votes. It seems to me that if Senator Kerry is elected, he will either pull out at once, which will allow for the formation of a really dangerous myth that America has been defeated by its own liberals, or he will prolong the war. If he prolongs the war, he will bring to its command infinitely greater competence and courage than President Bush. That goes without saying. But is this really a good thing? If a salutary nemesis must overwhelm us, let it happen as soon as the hubristic can understand it, but no sooner.

So here I stand, with my lonely banner: “Vote Bush for a swifter, more certain nemesis”. Come back in two years and tell me I was wrong.

p. that was written on about the 11th of May 2004; published on the 13th.

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4 Responses to Told you so

  1. H. E. Baber says:

    I did a double take when I skimmed this without catching the date–I thought you were referring to the 2008 election–because can you believe this: Bush says brother Jeb would make a ‘great president’

    This hit the NYTimes just now–a few hours after reports that W’s ratings were lowest ever, comparable to Nixon’s just prior to his reservation he counters by proposing that Americans continue the dynasty.

  2. acb says:

    Sorry to have given you a fright. But it is the most astonishing demonstration of political imcompetence that Bush could say or think that. I don’t doubt he feels his brother is _entitled_ to be president. But to say so suggests that he thinks there’s some chance it might happen.

  3. Sirocco says:

    I remember that column. But didn’t you wind up recanting?

    I, too, rooted for Bush the Lesser for the exact same reasons, albeit more privately.

    President Kerry would either have become the center of another _Dolchstosslegende_ or else had the Iraqi civil war pinned on him by the GOP propaganda machine. As it now stands, none outside of Freak Republic and Little Green Fucktards have the cosmic audacity to blame it on the libruls. Thus the Democrats just might reclaim a chamber in November, before running Hillary and losing to McCain in 2008.

    Unless one thinks that Kerry, faced with a hostile Congress, could have made any kind of real difference in Iraq by 2005 — in which case I have a fine piece of bridge, and so on — the only downside is the Supreme Court business. I _can_ imagine that bothering me a little more if I were a pre-menopausal red-state-dwelling American female.

  4. H. E. Baber says:

    Or if I had a post-pubescent adolescent daughter–as I do. According to polls most Americans don’t want serious restrictions on abortion. What they want mainly are some restrictions to send the message that sex isn’t just free and parental notification regulations so they can have some control over their kids. And, according to an earlier NYTimes article, when notified, more often than not it’s the mothers who want their daughters to have abortions.

    American mamas are ambitious for their daughters. Girls have to finish school and get jobs. No mama wants her daughter, married or not, saddled with a baby at 17. If the Republicans push the pro-life agenda too far to appeal to their “base” they’re cooked. The thing to watch is how the extremely restrictive abortion law recently passed in North Dakota plays out. Many pro-life groups opposed it because they know that if it gets to the Supreme Court as a challenge to Roe v. Wade all hell will break loose.

    Now my predictions, though these are all in the form of conditionals. IF it gets to the Supreme Court–and I pray that it will at an opportune time prior to the 2008 election–given the composition of the court, Roe v. Wade will go. That doesn’t matter as much as you might think because in our federal system it would leave individual states free to outlaw abortion, allow abortion on demand or anything in between. But it would get most voters scared shitless of Republicans and turn out votes for Democrats for every office short of the presidency.

    IF Hillary is nominated (not at all certain) then she will certainly lose, but whoever wins on the Republican ticket will have to deal with a Democratic House and Senate. He will whine that gridlock is preventing him from getting any of his stuff through, but no one will care. Americans are fed up with the conservative agenda, not only the Iraq war but even more importantly with domestic policies, and will have no interest whatsoever in supporting a Republican president who will have been elected solely because he is not Hillary.

    IF Hillary is not nominated and the Democrats manage to conjure up a candidate who is even minimally credible then happy days will be here again–though temporarily because whomever we elect in 2008 will have to clean up the mess Bush has made and likely be blamed for it.

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